Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mad Apiary Skills

Fact...raising chickens is much easier than keeping bees.

Feed the chickens, water the chickens, gather the chicken eggs and clean the coop every now and then. It doesn't take a genius to maintain a flock. It's so easy, even a chicken could do it.

Keeping bees is undoubtedly more intense and complicated and spring is one of the busiest times for a beekeeper.

Frames must be inspected for healthy bees and brood. Brood is the continuation of life in the hive and the honeybee queen's main goal. Although the term "queen bee" is frequently used loosely, she does not directly control the hive. Her sole function is to serve as the reproducer.

This smaller worker bee on the bottom is valiantly trying to drag the larger drone bee out of the hive. He must have done something naughty!

Dean likes to give the honeybees a little dose of antibiotic to maintain good health.

He mixes the antiobiotic with powdered sugar and sprinkles it on top of the frames. The bees quickly gobble up the tasty sugary substance.

Dean has the uncanny ability to pick the single frame from a hive which contains the queen. Scanning literally thousands of bees to spot her.

Just at the tip of the yellow hive tool say hello to Queen Oy Vey...of Hebrew descent.

Again in the first frame he picks up from the next hive, meet Queen Mama Mich in the center of this photo.

Be sure to check back soon for Mama Meesh's amazing story on an upcoming blog post.

Upon close inspection of one of the frames in the third hive, he notices a supersedure (emergency queen) cell. Supersedure is the process by which an old queen bee is replaced by a new queen. It is initiated by the worker bees who suspect an aging, diseased or otherwise failing queen. Being the quick thinking beekeeper that he is, he makes the decision to split the hive immediately.

Dividing one large hive into two is a risky move, not to mention a physically tricky one. The remaining hive still has a failing queen but now they lack a replacement. The new hive has only an unhatched virgin queen. If splitting is done incorrectly, losing both hives might be the tragic result.

Only time will tell if the beekeeper's risk paid off.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. In the center of this photo you will see where a young virgin queen has emerged from her queen cell. Virgin queens will quickly find and kill (by stinging) any other rival virgin queens whether emerged or still in their cells. Basically, first queen out...rules!

Introducing...Queen Amidala! 

She's the beauty just to the left of the yellow hive tool. Her wings are shorter than the other bees and she is much larger. Dean couldn't be more excited with the new "queen right" hive.

But what happened to the existing hive with the old failing queen?

Close examination reveals four new queen cells. Multiple supersedure cells are created to increase the odds of success. Growing a queen is quite simple. As an ordinary egg hatches, worker bees feed the larvae nectar, honey and extra royal jelly, speeding up the queen development. I look forward to capturing the new and improved version of Queen Lady Gaga very soon.

In the meantime, you may think spring is busy for a beekeeper...but you should hear the chorus of bees in this honeylocust tree practically dripping with pollen.

And the raspberries girls, don't forget those!

It's the close of another day of adventurous beekeeping here at The Garlick Press. 


  1. I think I'm going to reread this post - so much interesting information to take in.

  2. I was fascinated by this post! I'm with "Seeing Each Day." I think I'll read it again too!

  3. Can't wait to read more about your bees. Very interesting, and great storytelling photos, too!

  4. mama mich!! i LOVE it :) of course!

  5. Ahh-to be a virgin queen....